Cancer

Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.


Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start. There is evidence that excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages or binge drinking is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from
several forms of cancer.  Low amounts of wine on the other hand, are not associated with the risk of any cancer site with the possible exception of breast cancer for women and cancers of upper gastrointestinal tract (GIT) such as the mouth and throat as well as the liver.  An increased risk for the GIT cancers is observed with all alcoholic beverages, which is a linear relationship (the greater the amount, the higher the risk), and especially in combination with smoking.

 

With regards to breast cancer and alcoholic beverages, the research results vary widely since not only the amount of alcohol but also other co-factors as well as drinking pattern play an important role and have to be taken into consideration. 

 

The majority of epidemiological studies, however, show a linear increase in the relative risk of breast cancer with an increasing dose of alcohol but the magnitude of the effect is small. An increased breast cancer risk is observed in women with additional co-factors such as genetic disposition, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), low folate intake, overweight and smoking.

 

A meta-analysis for example, examined the influence of hormones on breast cancer risk and found that alcoholic beverages (> 20g/d) might increase the breast cancer risk only among women who were concurrently using menopausal hormone therapy (HT) and /or having estrogen receptors positive tumors. These findings indicate that a hormone-related mechanism may mediate the relation between alcohol drinking and an increased breast cancer risk. Among women who had ceased using HT, the risk associated with 2 or more drinks per day was not apparent.

Another factor to be considered is folate intake. Several studies have shown an inverse relation between folate intake and cancer. Accordingly, some research results found a significant interaction between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and folate intake where alcohol seems to increase the risk significantly only for those individuals with low folate intake.


All the studies show that the knowledge about the causes of breast cancer is still very incomplete and as scientists from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the USA, recently pointed out, some other (possible confounding) factors have not been considered in the research relating the consumption of alcoholic beverages to breast cancer:

  1. In the epidemiological data provided, the intake of alcoholic beverages is usually under-reported by subjects (which could exaggerate the harm associated with light drinking).
  2. In most studies, the pattern of drinking (regularly and moderately vs. binge drinking with a similar total weekly alcohol consumption) as well as beverage type have generally not been taken into account. However, this aspect of drinking pattern is important given that binge drinking is associated with much higher blood alcohol concentrations and acetaldehyde accumulation (a known carcinogen) and production of free radicals (reactive oxygen species). Considering that the blood alcohol level may be the most important mechanism for effects on cancer risk, the pattern by which a woman consumes a given amount of alcohol is particularly relevant in interpreting associations.
  3. In addition, epidemiological studies usually provide data only for a short period of time, while the development of cancer may relate to exposures over many decades.


The authors concluded that based on scientific evidence, in post menopausal women, the increase in the risk of breast cancer, if there is any at all, is small..

 

The relationship between wine consumption and cancer is even more complex. It is not yet completely proven that wine drinkers have a lower risk for cancer than drinkers of other alcoholic beverages. However, epidemiological studies indicate a lower cancer risk for wine drinkers for most cancer sites compared to drinkers of other alcoholic beverages. Moderate wine intake may actually reduce the risk of oesophagus, thyroid, lung, kidney and colorectal cancers as well as Non-Hodgkin’s Lyphoma. To what extent differences in drinking pattern or certain beverage-specific ingredients are responsible still needs to be determined. Concerning breast cancer, there may also be a protective role for wine.

What might be a possible mechanism for the protective effect of wine? Damage to the DNA of cells by chemicals in the environment and food as well as by the physical environment can lead to cancer. Various experimental studies suggest that the phenolic compounds in wine may protect the DNA of cells of body tissues from damage or may stop the growth of cells with damaged DNA. Complete sequencing of the grapevine genome has revealed genes that are responsible for the synthesis of health-promoting compounds (resveratrol and other polyphenols). 
Another potential explanation for the observation that in some studies  red wine does not appear to increase breast cancer risk, may be the fact that red wine is a nutritional aromatase inhibitor (AI).  Aromatase inhibitors (AI) prevent the conversion of androgens to estrogens, thus a hormone-related mechanism might be involved. 

 

In summary, the cancer risk should not be evaluated in isolation, one particular food factor (like wine consumption) should not be analysed out of context with its cultural and culinary habits. The effect of wine on cancer risk also depends on whether it is consumed with or without a meal and the  nature of other foods consumed. There needs to be a distinction between different types of cancer and the influence of lifestyle (according to the World Cancer Research Fund, more than 1/3 of the cancers could be prevented by a healthy diet, regular physical activity and no weight gain) and genetic factors needs to be assessed.  

 

In future studies, the focus should be more on the pattern of drinking, not just the average weekly amount of alcohol, and thus, have a better understanding of how moderate drinking impacts cancer risk. This will allow consumers to make better informed decisions about the risks and benefits of moderate wine consumption in the context of their overall health and at different stages of their life.

 

The above summary provide an overview of the topic, for more details and specific questions, please refer to the articles in the database.

 

 

 

 

AIMS: The aim of this study was to clarify the relationship between drinking and metabolically healthy status in men with normal weight, overweight and obesity. METHODS: The subjects were Japanese men aged from 35 to 60 years (n=31781) and they were divided by daily amount of drinking (g ethanol) into light (< 22), moderate (>/=22 and <44), heavy (>/=44 and <66) and very heavy (>/=66) drinkers. Metabolically healthy subjects were defined as those without hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetes. RESULTS: The percentage of metabolically healthy subjects was much lower in the overweight (BMI>/=25 and <30) and obese (BMI>/=30) groups than in the normal weight group (BMI>/=18.5 and <25) and was much lower in the obese group than in the overweight group.…
Epidemiological studies have been used to show associations between modifiable lifestyle habits and the incidence of breast cancer. Among such factors, a history of alcohol use has been reported in multiple studies and meta-analyses over the past decades. However, associative epidemiological studies that were interpreted as evidence that even moderate alcohol consumption increases breast cancer incidence have been controversial. In this review, we consider the literature on the relationship between moderate or heavy alcohol use, both in possible biological mechanisms and in variations in susceptibility due to genetic or epigenetic factors. We argue that there is a need to incorporate additional approaches to move beyond the associations that are reported in traditional epidemiological analyses and incorporate information on molecular pathologic…
BACKGROUND: While current research is largely consistent as to the harms of heavy drinking in terms of both cancer incidence and mortality, there are disparate messages regarding the safety of light-moderate alcohol consumption, which may confuse public health messages. We aimed to evaluate the association between average lifetime alcohol intakes and risk of both cancer incidence and mortality. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We report a population-based cohort study using data from 99,654 adults (68.7% female), aged 55-74 years, participating in the U.S. Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial. Cox proportional hazards models assessed the risk of overall and cause-specific mortality, cancer incidence (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancer), and combined risk of cancer and death across categories of self-reported average…
BACKGROUND: Individual participant data pooled analyses allow access to non-published data and statistical reanalyses based on more homogeneous criteria than meta-analyses based on systematic reviews. We quantified the impact of publication-related biases and heterogeneity in data analysis and presentation in summary estimates of the association between alcohol drinking and gastric cancer. METHODS: We compared estimates obtained from conventional meta-analyses, using only data available in published reports from studies that take part in the Stomach Cancer Pooling (StoP) Project, with individual participant data pooled analyses including the same studies. RESULTS: A total of 22 studies from the StoP Project assessed the relation between alcohol intake and gastric cancer, 19 had specific data for levels of consumption and 18 according to cancer…
Alcohol consumption is inconsistently associated with the risk of gastric cancer morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to systematically evaluate the association between alcohol consumption on gastric cancer risk. The PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases were searched from inception through April 2017. Prospective cohort studies evaluating the association between alcohol consumption and risk of gastric cancer which report its effect estimates with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were included. The results summary was performed using the random-effect model. Twenty-two cohort studies involving 22,545 cases of gastric cancer and 5,820,431 participants were identified and included in our data analysis. Overall, drinking had little or no effect on gastric cancer as compared with non-drinkers. Furthermore, light and moderate alcohol…
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